Pigments

March 20, 2016

Being a colorist at heart, I’ve always been curious in seeing raw pigments and learning about where the colors come from, be it minerals or plants, or those that are created in a lab.  My watercolors are infused with color.  In my workshops I show my students ways to mix and layer colors to create richer, glowing colors, rather than using color right out of the tubes.  I know there are plenty of painters who use specific palettes of color, limited to a small assortment of colors to create a certain tone to their paintings.  I’m a color hog, the more the merrier.  I never use any browns or black, and rarely grey.  I mix them or layer them using all sorts of colors to get wonderful rich colors in my paintings.  

Shutters

“Shutters”  Original watercolor on paper. 14″ x 14″. Architecture Collection. Study of classic tuscan windows, shutters and wrought iron. Orange, yellow and plum colored walls with green and blue shutters, the sky reflected in the window glass.      ©Jill Rosoff 2005

And I am curious about where pigments come from.  Typically they come from plants or minerals, and sometimes animals.  Imagine grinding up a lovely piece of lapis lazuli to get that specific blue in your painting!  Blues are purples were most expensive, so its no surprise why they are associated with royalty.   With the Industrial Revolution, color and pigments could be developed in labs, and more especially after the Scientific Revolution in the 18th C.   

I just found this article on My Modern Met about a lab at Harvard that has a collection of over 2,500 pigments from around the world, and you can go see them.  Its the Forbes Pigment Collection at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, part of the Harvard Art Museum.  They have the pigments there to use in art conservation work, to be able to match colors of old paintings that are being maintained and preserved.

forbespigmentcollection3photo from My Modern Met, colors from the Forbes Pigment Collection

Seeing this article made me wistful for an art supply store I went to when I was studying printmaking in Florence way too many years ago.  Its called Zecchi Colori, on via della Studio (evocative name, no?).  Head a couple of blocks toward the Arno from the Santa Maria del Fiori, the Cathedral that dominates Florence’s skyline, Zecchi is on the right side of the street. The first time I went in there I thought I’d died and gone to heaven because around the perimeter of the store on the top shelf of the supplies were huge glass jars of pigments, bright, intense, glorious. I never did get a photo of them, seems ridiculous since I was so taken with them that I just never took a photo.  I did by a crock, though!  But I think I need to get into that lab at Harvard…

Majolica crock from Zecchi Colori, Firenze.

Majolica crock from Zecchi Colori, Firenze.  Its sitting on a new still life of fruit and vegetables that’s in process.  

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Some Inspirations This Week

February 12, 2016

Earlier this week I got to see “Red”, the Tony-award winning play about one of my favorite painters, Mark Rothko.  In the first act there’s a terrific back-and-forth between Rothko and the young artist he’s hired to be his studio assistant, of different things colored red.  Its a verbal panoply of all things red, and in my mind’s eye as I visualized each thing they mentioned:  tomatoes, blood, lips, cherries, apple, red pepper, rose, red hair, beets, lobsters (cooked), sunsets, strawberries, pomegranates, poppies, I saw all those different versions of red:  cadmium red, alizarin, vermilion, scarlet, carmine, crimson, garnet and more.  All so different, and all so red.  I use them a lot.  Its a fun exercise, and illustrates so well the differences between warm reds and cool reds to boot.  In my workshop 2 nights later we started doing a similar thing, so they could all start envisioning different variations of just the one color.

 

Its a fun exercise, and illustrates so well the differences between warm reds and cool reds to boot.  In my workshop 2 nights later we started doing a similar thing, so they could all start envisioning different variations of just the one color.

Next:  I was born in the Year of the Monkey, so it’s ‘my’ year according to the Chinese zodiac calendar.  There have been some interesting illustrations for it online on various social media sites, but I wanted to share one with you all especially.  A friend of mine, Kay, who does sumi-e, created a lovely tribute to this year here.

And finally, speaking of reds, have a lovely Valentines!

Valentine 1

I just read the transcript of Bob Dylan’s speech last week at MusiCares, when he was honored as their Person of the Year. It’s part of the annual Grammys events.  I wish I could have watched him, but it wasn’t broadcast on television.  However one reporter, Randall Roberts, thought to transcribe it, and the LA Times published it.  Its a hell of a good read.

Pink Fuschias

“Fuchsias” ©Jill Rosoff 2011, 6″ x 17.5″

I think it’s important to remember that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  It is almost as if its a redistribution of wealth, that everything that we take in, visually, aurally, emotionally, spiritually, through taste, through feel, through smell, all of it can come back out of us in the art we make, if its painting, cooking, making music, writing, or any other creative endeavor, all of it reflects what we have learned so far.  My artwork is influenced by so many things, by what I learned growing up, what my parents taught me, what I saw in museums, what I tasted.  Anyone who knows me knows I’ve usually got a cup of coffee with me while I’m making art.  I’m influenced by a great latte.  Yup, I said that.  

Dylan talks about the music he listens to, how he hears the songs and then writes something that reflect them.  Read especially the part about the “Come all ye” songs, and what he wrote after that.  You’ll have a V-8 slap-your-forehead moment.  I look at Van Gogh, and Thiebaud, and Klimt and Diebenkorn, and so many more, and then I indulge in them as I paint my paintings.  Going to museums to see the actual work of these artist heroes of mine is like plugging me in, I get all excited and fascinated and wish I could paint right then and there.  Thank goodness for my iPhone, I can now take notes on it.  But I still often take a notebook into a show with me to jot down things.  Musically I try to channel Gabby Pahinui as I struggle to get my fingers, which are ingrained in American folk music rhythms and patterns, into playing Hawaiian slack key guitar.  Its my new, great struggle.  

Read the transcript here, even if you don’t subscribe to the LA Times online, you can read up to 10 articles a month there for free.   I’ve downloaded it so I can go reread it now and then.  So can you.

And if you live in or near Orange County, CA, come take one of my watercolor workshops!

Plumeria Down Under

September 1, 2014

An email arrived earlier this summer, someone asking about one of my paintings of plumeria.  These are always fun emails to get, of course.  This person was from Australia, making the contact even more exciting, to realize someone halfway around the world found my work and so enjoyed it they wanted to buy a piece.  This person did end up buying that painting, and icing on the cake, they commissioned a second painting, based on a small one I posted on this blog a couple of years ago.  The client wanted the commissioned piece to be larger than the original, so I got to adjust the composition, adding a more flowers to it, to make the larger format work well.  

Here’s the finished commission.

Plumeriasfinal100

 

I shipped both paintings together, and they arrived the other day, they have them in their “hot little hand.  They are gorgeous – thank you so much!”  Its so lovely knowing that something I loved making is going being enjoyed so thoroughly by someone else.  Thank you back!

Teaching About Color

March 20, 2014

I have a workshop of new watercolor painters that just started last night.  For new painters, I give out a list of supplies they’ll need to have, including a list of paint colors they need to get.  This list includes a breadth of reds, blues, yellows and greens, mostly, noting that they can choose to add any colors they want, that a combination of those colors might not create…usually for me this means pinks, purples, turquoises, and some greens.  Black and white are not on my list, neither are the umbers or siennas.  I talked about this in a posting a year ago: https://jillpaints.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/about-using-of-brown-and-grey-in-watercolor/

In getting ready for a set of workshops, this one is all about still lifes, I do some research online about the genre, refresh my memory, and find known and unknown painters’ work to show my students.  And you know how when you go online that the thread of what you look at can look like a ball of string your cat unravelled?  This time I stumbled upon pictures of a eucalyptus tree I’d never seen before:  a rainbow eucalyptus.

Rainbow Euc

One sample of a rainbow eucalyptus

A quote from Love These Pics, where I found the above picture (and many others) notes:  “The landscaping article Under the Rainbow explained, “As the newly exposed bark slowly ages, it changes from bright green to a darker green, then bluish to purplish, and then pink-orange. Finally, the color becomes a brownish maroon right before exfoliation occurs. Since this process is happening in different zones of the trunk and in different stages, simultaneously, the colors are varied and almost constantly changing. As a result, the tree will never have the same color pattern twice, making it like a work of living art.”

Now, I get to have some fun explaining to my students how all tree trunks are not brown.  Happy First Day of Spring!

Spring is A-Coming

January 19, 2014

Tulips (bonanza)

“Tulips (Bonanza)” ©Jill Rosoff 1992  40″ x 60″

I love painting spring flowers.  I paint them in watercolor, I paint them on my silk scarves.  Is it the colors?  The shapes?  That they make me happy?  Yes, yes and yes.  I just can’t get enough.  I walked into my local Trader Joe’s the other day, and saw the first spring tulips in the flower bins.  So I bought a bunch.  No hesitation, just leaned down and picked the color that was hollering “pick me!” at me.  They were orange with dark orange infusing from the lower part of the petals to the tips.

Now, it’s been hot in Southern California the past few days, and those buds drank a lot of water.  So they were buds on day 1, fully developed flowers on day 2, and wild things on day 3.  They were starting to droop because of the heat.  I refilled the vase, and on day 4, they were upright again.  I know they only last a week, but oh how I enjoy them.

My watercolor workshops are starting up again in 2 weeks.  My Saturday morning workshops start on Feb. 1st.   I also have two 6-session workshops scheduled at Orange Coast College Community Education, “Flowers in Watercolors” starts February 5th, and “Watercolor Still Lifes” starts March 19th.  As much as we’ll concentrate on watercolor technique, we’ll also focus on how to analyze the subject to be able to build a composition using the watercolors to their best effect.

The painting above was painted in 1992.  It lived in a restaurant in St. Helena, CA for 8 years, and now hangs in my living room.  The size noted above is the paper size, it’s framed in a simple dark wood frame, and floats on a linen background, so it’s even larger.  A  wonderful large art presence in the room.

 

Basics and Color

July 19, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Homemade color wheel, approximately 3″ x 3″ 

I made this color “wheel” a few years ago during a one-on-one lesson with a new student from my Watercolor Workshops.  We were going through the primaries and how the other colors were made from them.  I found this little scrap of watercolor paper and painted the colors and numbered them.  The primaries I numbered with “1”, the secondaries “2”, the tertiaries “3”.  This was all new information to my student, an adult, who hadn’t learned it in grade school.  She had gone through her whole life until then not knowing something that is an elemental building block of information, not only to making art, but I think to life.  

This happens more frequently than I had ever thought.  I have been teaching more frequently lately, in the local Jr. College’s community education, to teens at a local library in an after school program, and in my Every Other Saturday Watercolor Workshops.  I’m amazed and sad that art is less and less a part of primary and secondary education.  So soapbox time!  

Kids need to be introduced to art early, so they have the experience of being artistic, creative, think inductively.  And because its documented that art especially helps young brains think more creatively.  There’s so much information available about this, about how art helps people to think in alternative pathways.  Art was a regular part of my primary education, regularly in elementary school, and then I took ceramics for all but one semester of my four years of high school.  I ended up a painter, but though I don’t work in clay any longer, there are things I know from those hours of potting that still inform my art.

So now I have my students paint their own color wheels using their own watercolors. Yes, you can buy very functional color wheels in an art store, but there’s nothing like the experience of creating a new color by mixing two others, or layering one transparent color over another one, to make a third color.  And it lets them know what colors the paints in their palettes will be able to make. Oh the discoveries they’ll make!  

I kept the color wheel I painted, its pinned to the wall next to where I paint.  Not because I need it, but to remind me of the basics, and how fun it is to open others’ horizons about color.    

 

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